Back in the day when I was a gymnast training sixteen hours a week (yep, it was pretty much my life), I still remember on the way home from training on a Saturday morning, Mum would always call in at the bakery and pick up a loaf of bread. After a solid four-hour session, I would sit in the car and motor my way through quite a few slices of fresh white bread. The softness of the fluffy loaf with its crusty edges was pure heaven in my mouth, and it was literally the best thing after a gruelling session. Let’s just say there were only a few slices left for the family for lunch!
But back in those days—and I’m talking over 20 years ago (now I’m revealing my age)—we simply had white, wholemeal and multigrain to choose from. It was a pretty simple choice. Now, walk into any supermarket or bakery and you’ll be bombarded with a zillion different options. White, white high fibre, wholemeal, spelt, rye, gluten-free, ciabatta, ancient grain, soy and linseed, the list just goes on and on. It’s no wonder we are confused when we are bombarded with so many choices.
So, when it comes to bread, which bread is best?
Well, the truth lies in how the bread is made. A good rule of thumb is the lighter and fluffier the bread, the more processed it’s likely to be. White bread is the most refined, while wholemeal and wholegrain bread contains the goodness of whole grains. Rye is also a good choice as it contains resistant starch, which is a special type of dietary fibre and is only found in selected foods.
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What about sourdough, that premium bread that seems to be sweeping every café under the sun? Well, it’s great to see that sourdough has hit the mainstream because it has loads of nutritional benefits. It’s made with a starter culture which means it’s a ‘fermented food’, so it has superpowers when it comes to our gut health. Sourdough also has a low Glycemic Index (GI), which means it helps to keep our blood sugar levels steady, which in turn helps us feel fuller for longer.
So how do I know which one to choose?
Well, if you’re a white bread kind of person (aka me back in my gymnast days), then why not mix it up occasionally and alternate your white bread with sourdough and once a week try one with a few extra seeds? You’ll feel fuller for longer and your gut will thank you for it. If you like a little more texture, go for wholemeal or wholegrain, and if you like a heavier, more dense bread, rye is a winner. Thinking gluten-free is a healthier option? Think again. Unless you have coeliac disease or a medically diagnosed intolerance to gluten, there’s no need to go for gluten-free bread. Gluten-free bread is often made with rice and potato flour and as a result have a high GI, meaning they’ll cause a spike in your sugar levels, followed by a crash later. Not to mention gluten itself is what helps bread stay elastic and flexible, so the texture of gluten-free breads may not be quite as favourable. And, if you’re on the search for the ultimate loaf of bread, you know, the one that ticks the most nutritional boxes and wins the superhero bread award, go for a double whammy and get your hands on a wholegrain sourdough — one that’s dense with lots of visible grains and seeds.
Also keep in mind, if you’re not quite at the soy, linseed and quinoa bread kind of stage, don’t panic. Dietary guidelines recommend that most of your grains are wholegrain, so if you’re not there yet, just aim for at least half. I’ve since migrated from my white bread post-gymnastics habit to a more denser and filling bread, but I’ll still enjoy the occasional Bunnings sausage sizzle on the weekends — on white bread, with tomato sauce and onions, of course! This article is a guest post by Jemma O’Hanlon. These are her opinions as an Accredited Practising Dietitian at Jenny Craig. Not sure which bread to choose? You can safely know the ingredients when you make your own! Try this gluten-free focaccia and this clean and lean bread recipe by Elle Macpherson’s personal trainer.